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Staffing Key Management Roles in the Trump Administration: Where We Stand at 200 Days

By Matthew Weil

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

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The Trump administration continues to trail its recent predecessors in filling key appointed management positions as we reach the 200-day mark since inauguration. In this second update of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Management Tracker, which follows progress made to fill vital executive branch management positions, we find that at the beginning of this administration, slightly less than one-third of key management positions are filled by confirmed incumbents, compared to over 70 percent at the 200-day marks of the previous two administrations.  

This administration is behind in nominating individuals for essential, management-focused positions. 

Unlike other trackers that look at all Senate-confirmed posts, BPC’s Management Tracker follows those positions requiring confirmation that are responsible for the management of large numbers of employees or budgets. These are the individuals tasked with ensuring effective management of the government on a day-to-day basis. Without confirmed appointees in these positions, which include agency deputy secretaries and CFOs, the government will not be run as efficiently as possible and taxpayer money will not be spent as wisely as it could. 

In 2014, BPC’s Commission on Political Reform made seven recommendations about improving the presidential appointment process, especially at the beginning of a new administration. Among them are ways to streamline the appointment process and a need to focus on expediting top positions. We believe it benefits all Americans to have fully-empowered, confirmed appointees running the government.  
Where do we stand today in relation to recent history? This administration is behind in nominating individuals for essential, management-focused positions. At this point, both President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama had nominated (or held over from the previous administration) individuals for more than 75 percent of the tracked positions. President Trump has made nominations or held over individuals for 57 percent of the tracked positions, not including three nominations that were subsequently withdrawn before Congress took action.  

By this point in their administrations, Bush and Obama also had more of their preferred nominees confirmed. As of today, Congress has confirmed 18 of President Trump’s nominees, compared to 35 and 32 for Obama and Bush, respectively. The previous two administrations had more than 70 percent of their management teams in place at the 200-day mark. The current administration has about 39 percent of equivalent positions filled.  

By this point in their administrations, Bush and Obama also had more of their preferred nominees confirmed.

While this administration has been slower to nominate candidates to these essential slots, its nominees have also experienced greater challenges moving through the Senate confirmation process, even though Congress is conducting hearings after receiving nominations more quickly than previously. This year, Congress has conducted hearings for nominees, on average, in 20 days. It took more than 25 days during President Barack Obama’s first 200 days and more than 32 days during President George W. Bush’s term. However, President Trump’s nominees are spending significantly more time in the Senate process. For those nominees confirmed by the 200 day mark, President Trump’s nominees have taken nearly 54 days from nomination to confirmation. Obama nominees spent only 36 days in the Senate and Bush nominees were considered and confirmed, on average, within 38 days.   

Government works better when these tracked positions are filled with confirmed nominees. There is room for improvement on both the administration and Congressional sides of the nomination and confirmation process. The administration should ramp up making nominations, and the Senate must find a way to move nominees more quickly through hearings and votes for confirmation.